Science Fiction

Computer Dating Service

Glen keyed the minimitter with his tongue and subvocalized to Max, There’s a pretty brunette over by the door.

Inside Glen’s head his computer link responded, Dance with her. I’ll download her specs.

Glen straightened his shoulders and walked toward the woman. As he neared her table, he tilted his head and stretched an open palm toward her. “Care to dance?”

“I’d love to,” she answered.

Glen guided his partner around the floor awkwardly, keeping close body contact while Max performed the evaluation. As the song ended, Max transmitted to Glen, Not this one. Try again.

Before Glen could release his partner, she asked, “Would you like a drink?”

“Thank you,” answered Glen, “But not tonight.” Her smile disappeared, as he turned away.

At his table, Glen contacted Max again. She’s the fourth one you’ve rejected. What’s wrong with her?

If you must know, her net home is a dot-org. Beneath us, son.

Glen almost knocked his drink over. And the one before that, only a third generation p-tec. What about the redhead? Oh yes, her net was too small. We’ll never find a mate.

Calm down. We can’t marry in haste. Now stop wasting time and dance, please.

Glen sighed. Max was right. Nowadays you couldn’t get anywhere if your linkmate wasn’t compatible with your partner’s. It didn’t matter whether a woman was beautiful, or sexy, or intelligent. All that mattered was whether her computer link matched your own well enough for a mating. Incompatible computers couldn’t reproduce regardless of how much their human hosts loved each other.

Glen placed a mint in his mouth and looked around the room again. Then he spotted her. Long, gorgeous legs swung from the barstool as she spun toward him. She caught his eye and nodded. Blond hair fell across her eyes. She laughed as she tossed her head back.

Glen’s heart thumped. She was his dream girl, no matter what Max said.

As he approached, she jumped off the stool and waved to him. Before he could ask her to dance, she announced, “I’m Kerre. What’s your name? Do you want to dance?”

She’s new to this, thought Glen. Nobody even bothers with names until after the computer scan. “Um, Glen,” he said. “And sure, let’s dance.”

He could barely keep up with her twirling, bouncing movements. He tried to grasp her hand during the rowdy song, but couldn’t create a decent connection. Finally, the music slowed and she melted into his arms. He breathed heavily. She fit perfectly against him. Her body swayed with his. He felt like a graceful, accomplished dancer. Her warm breath on his neck sent shivers down his back.

Before the music ended, Max transmitted. She’s the one. Everything works. Bring her home, boy.

Gently Glen touched her cheek with his lips and whispered, “How about a drink at my place?”

To his horror, he felt her stiffen. A teardrop glistened in her eye. “I really am sorry,” she said, “but not tonight.”

published on Antipodean SF

Shoplifter 

Jake strolled through the little shop, admiring the displays.  He’d never seen such a complete collection of Twentieth Century antiques.  He chuckled at the cumbersome notebook computers and cell phones.  He couldn’t imagine functioning without his e-implants.

In the Toy room he puzzled over a hula hoop and the odd object called — Slinky.  The Collectors would love this stuff.

Jake touched a button on his sleeve.  Lights flashed and the shop’s chem hazard alarms began screeching.  Customers and employees hurried toward the exits.

One clerk touched Jake’s arm.  “This way, Sir.”

“Oh, thank you,” Jake said.  He sidled toward the front door.  He waited inside for a few moments until everyone had gathered on the sidewalk.  Then he pressed the second button.

He knew what the spectators would see.  First the shop began to shimmer like a desert mirage.  Then a ray of yellow light enveloped the building.  The shop rose toward his bosses’ waiting ship.  Nothing but a hole and crumbling foundation remained.

Jake whistled happily as he started to catalog artifacts.

published on AlienSkin Magazine

Teddy Bear

Sitting in the corner of Kristin’s crib, the frayed teddy bear hummed a lullaby.  He loved the sound of babies’ breathing, the smell of their skin.  Kristin was smaller than her brothers had been at eight months.  Teddy worried about that.

Kristin wriggled in her sleep.  Teddy stroked her back with his soft paw.  She sighed.

Kristin’s mother entered the room and Teddy stiffened.  Just yesterday Mother nearly dropped Kristin lifting her out of the crib.  And last week she’d transported Kristin without a protective helmet in the hovercraft.  Teddy growled softly as Mother crooned to Kristin.

Don’t wake her, thought Teddy.

But Mother paid no attention.  She picked up the baby and began kissing her.  Kristin’s eyes flew open and she started to cry.  She squirmed and turned her head.  Teddy reached up with both paws.

“Oh, all right,” said Mother.  “You love that ragged Guardian more than me.”  She sat Kristin in her carrier and bent over to grab Teddy’s paw.  With contact, Teddy tingled and a surge raced through his body.

Mother jumped back, dropped Teddy, and yelled, “Damn it.”  Narrowing her eyes and tightening her lips together, she stared at the bear.  Teddy glared back.

Later that night, Teddy eavesdropped on Mother and Father whispering in the bedroom.

“We need to get rid of it,” Mother said.  “It’s worn out.  It short-circuited today and I’m afraid it’ll hurt our Kristin.”

“I know,” answered Father.  “But he’s been with me since I was born.  Couldn’t we just power him down and store him in the attic?”

“I think it’s dangerous,” Mother responded.

“OK, I’ll look for a new one this week.”

Teddy moaned softly.  A new Guardian would not understand Mother’s neglect.  A new Guardian would not protect Kristin properly.

By morning Teddy had made a decision.

When Kristin awoke, Teddy fed her, changed her diaper, and entertained her.  By the time Mother entered the bedroom, the sun was already warming the crib.  The crystal in the window scattered rainbows over the carpet.

When Mother approached the crib, Teddy reached up.  He tilted his head and lowered his eyes.  He looked lost and forlorn.

“You don’t fool me,” Mother said.  “You’re out of here.”

Teddy waited, controlling himself.  Mother bent over and roughly grabbed a paw.  Teddy remained rigid as Mother lifted him to face level and held him with both her hands.  Then he attacked with every kilowatt of stored energy.

He tumbled back into the crib as Mother screamed and fell to the floor with a thud.  She lay on her back, arms and legs twisted in unnatural angles.  Flecks of spittle formed at the corner of her mouth as her body convulsed.  After a minute, Teddy could see only the whites of her eyes.  Finally, she lay still.

Teddy stared lovingly at Kristin.  Safe at last, he thought.

published on NetAuthor/E2K

Rehab

“The treatments aren’t working,” I tell my assistant, Marcy.  From the observation window we watch our prisoner writhe on the sterile bed.  Marcy increases the output and the patient screams.  His tortured body begins to convulse.

“Shut it down,” I order as I rush into the room.

His eyes are wide open.  “The same nightmare?” I ask.

He licks his lips and mutters, “I murdered them.”

Marcy escorts the delirious convict back to his cell.

I need to review my Serenity program.  It’s been 100% effective in rehabilitating criminals, until now.  We’ve never seen such a horrific response.  Instead of erasing the nightmares, it seems to be magnifying them.

I place the electrode band on my own head and punch start.  I see purple columbines, hear the rushing creek, feel the cool breeze.  I am surrounded by aspens and mountains.  How can this beauty cause such distress?

Then the calming scene fades.  Now, I observe a couple in bed.  I feel myself raise my arms.  Suddenly, I am slamming an ax into one sleeper’s head.  As his blood soaks the sheets, his wife awakens, screaming in terror.

I yank the headband off.  My hair is wet with sweat.  I’m hyperventilating.  My heart races.  I hear Marcy enter behind me.  I turn.  “Someone’s hacked Serenity,” I shout.

Marcy’s fists tighten and her body stiffens.  “I know,” she says.  “Some criminals don’t deserve to forget.”

“You?”

“That monster,” she replies, “took an ax and slaughtered my parents.”

published on 365 Tomorrows

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